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Sarasota researchers get $400,000 grant to study red tide health effects

The Gulf of Mexico is quiet Monday when it comes to red tide. As of last week, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission observed only background concentrations in Southwest Florida.

But that doesn’t mean the research stops to learn more about these types of water quality issues in our region.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recently awarded the Roskamp Institute in Sarasota a grant of more than $400,000 to continue its research on the potential neurological effects of brevetoxins or toxins found in red tide.

“What we hope to do is show that there is no relationship between being exposed to red tide and getting neurological signs or symptoms,” said Dr. Mike Mullan, the executive director of Roskamp Institute. “But we have to be sure of that.”

Red tide is anything but a distant memory for Gene Luciano, the owner of Dalis Fishing Charter.

“We’ve had some people it bothered quite a bit when they’re on the boat,” Luciano said. “And some it doesn’t bother hardly at all. And, somebody like myself, it bothers me quite a bit in my throat and in my nasal passage.”

Luciano understands the widespread impact red tide can have.

“Oh, it was awful,” he said. “It impacted business quite a bit. A lot of people were worried about their health.”

Currently, Mullan says researchers are interested in red tide’s effects on public health.

“What we’re interested in are brain disorders in general and what can contribute to those,” Mullan said.

The institute’s study involves recruiting volunteers from Sarasota and Manatee counties to collect blood and urine samples to measure participant brevetoxin and antibody levels. The hope is to share the findings beyond those counties, including Southwest Florida.

And fishermen such as Luciano are all for the research being done to learn more about possible health consequences for red tide and other water quality issues.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Lucianos aid. “I mean, to see a national grant for the study of the red tide and how it affects us, I think is wonderful.”

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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